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Code Of Ethics Manual For Journalists


The Press Council of South Africa has published an easy-to-read Code of Ethics manual for journalists titled Decoding the Code.

“Decoding the Code” is an ethics made easy manual or a “Code of Ethics for dummies” which attempts to simplify decision-making of complex and vexing questions of what to or not to publish under deadline pressures. It is immensely useful and a must for every newsroom.” Writes Mathatha Tsedu, former Sanef executive director who wrote the Foreword in the manual.

Mr Tsedu says there is hardly anything that anyone can do without influencing somebody else; there is nothing that a journalist can do in her or his line of duty without affecting somebody. Journalists should fully understand and appreciate just how much power they have.

That everything they do in their professional lives influences people. That this influence can sometimes make or break a person. And that this places a huge responsibility on everybody concerned.

A Code of Ethics and Conduct is the first and most important way of regulating the press and online media (“the media”, for the purpose of this exercise).

“Editors and journalists often ask me for advice prior to publication. My first question always is: What does the Code of Ethics and Conduct say? In most cases, the answer to this question solves the problem,” writes Mr Tsedu.

Johan Retief, former Ombudsman and author of the document, says: “A Code of Ethics is an ethical compass without which the media are all at sea.”

This document is a discussion of the latest South African Code of Ethics and Conduct, section by section and sentence by sentence, explaining why the issues contained in them are important and illustrating the principles and consequences involved – in the hope that this would provide basic guidelines to journalists for acting ethically at all times.

There are examples of actual cases presented in boxes in this interactive version of the booklet published by the Press Council of South Africa.

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